BOSTON - Confetti rained down and the Hallelujah Chorus resounded through city streets Saturday as grateful fans embraced the World Series champion Red Sox during a jubilant parade that even went afloat on the Charles River.
An estimated 3.2-million people packed the 7-mile parade route on a rainy autumn day, standing in dense crowds, hanging from windows and cheering from rooftops.
Some held signs bearing words of thanks, marriage proposals and expressions of wonder at the team's achievement after 86 years of dashed hopes since its last championship in 1918.
"All is forgiven," read one banner. "Now we just have to wait for the other six signs of the apocalypse," read another. And dozens read simply: "Thank you."
"It started raining and it was cold and the people didn't even care," pitcher Derek Lowe said. "They've waited a long time. You'll never see a parade like that with so many people, no matter what sport or what city."
The parade wound from Fenway Park, past Boston Common and City Hall and onto the Charles River, with Red Sox players riding 17 of the amphibious vehicles known since World War II as "ducks."
Businesses along the route rose to the occasion, with one wedding boutique putting a bright red "B" on each dress in its display window. The Loew's Theatres at the Boston Common used huge letters to change its name to Lowe's in honor of the pitcher who won the clinching game in each of the three postseason series.
Throughout the parade, music blared from speakers on the lead vehicle, with selections including the Hallelujah Chorus from Handel's Messiah and Dirty Water, the Boston-themed Standells hit that is played after every victory at Fenway Park.
The players were awed by the outpouring of emotion from generations of fans. It even dwarfed the party thrown this year for the Super Bowl champion Patriots.
"I couldn't believe how loud it was," backup catcher Doug Mirabelli said. "It's just something you never get tired of. I just wanted to keep going."
STEROID SCANDAL: The vice president of BALCO Laboratories told federal investigators last year that Giants star Barry Bonds tried the company's new performance-enhancing drugs but didn't like how one made him feel, according to documents disclosed by the government.
According to the investigator's report, James Valente alleged that Bonds received "the clear" and "the cream," code names for the steroid THG and a testosterone cream, from BALCO "on a couple of occasions." Bonds, according to the memorandum, did not like how "the clear" made him feel.
Valente also alleged Yankees stars Jason Giambi and Gary Sheffield took steroids, according to an investigator's account of an interview with the Balco executive, the San Jose Mercury News reported.
Breaking a yearlong silence, BALCO president Victor Conte disputed the memorandum's contents.
"I have never given Barry Bonds anabolic steroids," Conte told the paper. "I have never even had a discussion with Bonds about anabolic steroids. Anyone who says anything differently is not telling the truth."
MLB, FRANCO TO TALK: Major League Baseball is expected to interview Mets pitcher John Franco in light of reports that a member of the Bonanno crime family told the FBI Franco had given him and other crime family members free tickets to a Mets game in the early 1990s.
Baseball officials probably will speak with Franco and remind him of the negative appearance cast when a player associates with members of organized crime, the New York Times reported.